Proposed changes to South Carolinas immigration laws would require all businesses to check their workers legal status by using a federal database, a move that is receiving little resistance from the business community.
The changes also would allow the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to suspend or revoke businesses licenses, tax licenses and any business documents filed at the S.C. Secretary of States office. But the labor department would no longer be allowed to impose fines on businesses that violate the law.
The changes are being considered in the 11th hour of the legislative session after the U.S. Supreme Court last week issued an opinion on a similar law in Arizona. The measures must be approved by the Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate will debate the changes today.
Meanwhile, LLR on Wednesday fired 22 inspectors who travel the state to audit businesses to determine whether they are following state law, said Catherine Templeton, LLRs director. There was no need to pay salaries for the employees while the Legislature tries to iron out problems in state immigration laws, she said.
Last weeks Supreme Court decision left some gray areas that could affect South Carolinas 2008 S.C. Immigration Reform Act, prompting attorneys from the Senate, LLR and the S.C. Attorney Generals Office to recommend changes.
Under the 2008 law, South Carolina businesses must check a newly hired employees legal status through one of two ways. They can use the E-verify system, which is a federal database that matches names and Social Security numbers. Or they can ask for a drivers license from South Carolina or one of 26 other states approved by the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.
In the Arizona law, all businesses are required to use the E-verify program, which the Supreme Court affirmed as constitutional.
The courts ruling upheld states right to suspend business licenses, but it left questions about whether it is legal for states to levy criminal and civil penalties against business owners who violate immigration laws.
That led Templeton and J.J. Gentry, a staff attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee, to recommend the state drop its system of fines levied against businesses that break the law.
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